As I child, I dreamed of going to Disney World. I wanted to ride the spinning tea cups, see Snow White and Mary Poppins, and experience the fireworks at night above the castle. Last week, that dream came true, and I got to get into Disney World and the Epcot Center for free. Thanks to my parents–who bought tickets back in the ’80s and never used them–Disney World honored the tickets and let me in to the Magical Kingdom of cotton candy, Disney characters, rides, and fun for two days of magic. I could not have been happier experiencing Disney World but I was just as happy, if not more excited, to visit Gatorland.
With thousands of alligators, it is safe to say the, “Alligator Capital of the World” stayed true to its name. I saw alligators swimming, sun bathing, sleeping, lounging, “playing” and eating. Gatorland even has a zip line for people to zip line over the gators! And if Disney World and Gatorland were not enough to keep me busy, I also traveled to two beaches: Turtle Beach and Siesta Beach on the west coast of Florida. With cold water and soft sand, I did not miss the midwest weather.
After visiting the beaches, there was still one thing left to do: swim with manatees. In Crystal River, Florida I was able to float above manatees in a wet suit and a snorkel mask while observing their beauty and size. Endangered and well protected by the Florida government, the manatees are safe to swim and live in protected area springs, and people are able to observe the manatees not in a zoo, but in their natural habitat. I am fortunate to have been able to experience all I did in Florida and cannot wait to return–even if it’s just to eat a fresh picked orange.
Tom Sawyer Island.